By Savannah Green (CMC ’20)
On the evening of February 11, California Governor Gavin Newsom delivered his State of the State speech and defied Trump on border security, criticizing the “border emergency.” As seen in the news throughout Trump’s presidency, the president has large plans to build a wall along the border between Mexico and the United States. Trump has stressed the need for more military presence along the Southwest border to prevent illegal immigrants and drugs from crossing over, but not all governors agree with this course of action.
Governor Newsom explained in his speech that he will remove 360 border patrol personnel and re-assign them to wildfire and drug-gang duty. Because of the numerous wildfires in California every year (with recent years being some of the worst in history) his decision to redirect personnel is understandable. Much to President Trump’s dismay, these officers will come directly from his ongoing project to further secure the nation’s southwest border. According to Governor Newsom, the border emergency is just a tactic to get more support for Trump’s projects. He warns of Trump’s use of excessive fear and exaggeration to persuade people to trust his plan. Many politicians like Newsom are urging the public to look at statistics and inform themselves of the research conducted by the Department of Homeland Security so they can properly assess, for themself, the information disseminated by the government and the media.
Governor Newsom is following closely in the footsteps of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Grisham asserts that the Southern border is not only safe, but has some of the country’s safest communities. Just before President Trump’s State of the Union address, she ordered a large portion of National Guard troops stationed at the border of New Mexico to withdraw. Governors such as Grisham and Newsom are trying to directly combat the perception of the supposed Central American “invasion” that continues to make headlines. In President Trump’s State of the Union address, he again stressed the border crisis and warned of a large caravan of migrants moving north to the United States. In recent weeks, Trump has also ordered an additional 3,750 troops to assist in border duties, from administrative help to putting up more barbed wire. Newsom, like Grisham, has placed these personnel on other projects in an effort to divert President Trump’s intentions without denying the use of the National Guard altogether.
A few statistics help put the situation into perspective. From 2006 to 2016, the number of illegal border crossings dropped from 851,000 to 62,000, based on information from the Department of Homeland Security. On the other hand, the number of families attempting to cross the border—as well as the number of asylum claims—have drastically increased. Unfortunately, asylum claims can take years to process and only 21 percent were given the green light in 2018. With the level of fear of returning home high for immigrants, they are stuck with few options; the humanitarian crisis continues to grow and the tug-of-war between the executive and the state escalates.
Governor Newsom has been highly active since he took office on January 7, 2019. He has championed California as the national leader in immigration, climate change, and income inequality issues. But before he took office, his predecessor—former governor Jerry Brown—agreed to go along with Trump’s plan to put more troops at the borders, with restrictions. Brown was highly criticized for agreeing in any capacity, and Newsom, since taking office, has boldly asserted his contrary position on the issue. He seems less concerned with making friends with the President than he does implementing the policies he believes will advance California and benefit the people. The work of Governors Grisham and Newsom had spurred a lively democratic discourse that the United States was built to see. This strong stand against Trumps “border emergency” may create a chain reaction that will encourage other governors to stand up for policies that represent their state and ultimately their people.